Confusion Corner: Partying for the sake of science

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November 13, 2009

12:24 AM

College is a fairly great time — any environment that so readily provides you with soft-serve ice cream couldn’t help but be. The only downside of the whole experience is that we do have to inevitably learn things. That fact seems obvious, but often college is an even more learning experience than one might imagine. There are several aspects of college life — integral to the thing as a whole — that we mistakenly don’t approach as the learning experiences they are. Navigating the hassles of multiple-occupancy living, for example. Or discovering how to bargain hunt effectively at local grocery stores (hint: coupons). But the most neglected experience is the true art of throwing a successful party.

One might initially laugh off this sort of concern. “Studying my Orgo notes this weekend is obviously more important than hosting a party,” you say. But is it really, in the long run? Sure, in your future career as an award-winning chemist, those notes you studied would be useful, but do scientists not also like to boogie? To shake that groove thang? Surely they must.

I’d even go so far as to say that the hosting of various social gatherings is perhaps the most immediately applicable part of our college experience — not that the ability to calculate long-term bond prices doesn’t give it a run for its money. Whatever profession, career or life-path you might choose, you will at some point feel it necessary to throw a party. College is the time to learn to do it right.

To be fair, it’s a question I never really considered for at least the first year of college. The restrictions on freshman dorms are so stringent that only the truly daring would try to test them — and believe me, I’m anything but daring. However, as soon as you turn 21, it becomes a sort of obligation. You have a debt to society at large, in the amount of several bumpin’ parties a year.

It seems like a simple enough proposition until you remember all those horrible parties you’ve attended over the years. The kind where everyone from that one club you never really joined shows up and plays an awkwardly stinted (read: sober) game of kings, and your friend’s iPod breaks, so someone plays “Freebird” on “Guitar Hero” over and over. The only way you could get out was to fake an ear infection. Of course, all at one party, but you’re convinced they will at yours.

The problem is, despite being easy to pinpoint what makes a bad party, it seems more difficult to describe what elements form an obviously good party. I’ve been told by some that the essential element is a theme, which makes sense. The proposition, “Hey guys, I feel like drinking tonight. So c’mon, waddaya say?” isn’t particularly convincing. Not to mention, the ability to create themed drinks and even sparsely decorate is always generally welcomed. But there’s always the chance that the theme overwhelms the actual party. Take, for example, every Halloween party ever held. I don’t care how good a pirate costume you found at the thrift store, you just end up looking creepy. The stuffed bird isn’t helping.

Others say it’s the mix of people that’s important. You want enough unrelated people so that there’s some mingling, but not so unrelated that they separate out like a poorly mixed drink. On that note, don’t pre-mix drinks. No one in their right mind trusts them, and really the idea’s a bit date-rapeish.

Those factors aside, there seems to be something more to the equation, some magical element that makes some parties more memorable than others. Of course, that key element might just be booze, but for argument’s sake let’s assume otherwise. I say we can find it. We can pioneer this new realm of study and perhaps, one day, find a cure for lame parties.

So everybody — science majors especially — put down the textbooks and start experimenting.

__Kevin Mooney is the Flat Hat Confusion Corner columnist. He is a fan of scientific experiments himself.__

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